Tom Abrahamsson's Review of ZM Lenses
The ZI Lenses:
The 21/2.8 Biogon: It feels more compact than the Leica 21/2.8 Aspherical. Based on my comparison (highly unscientific - prints or 30 power loupe), the Leica is marginally sharper at the center, but the Biogon is more even across the field. Distortion is about the same and edge fall off is not objectionable; hey it's a 21 after all and some darkening of the corners is typical for a 21 anyway. It makes a great alternative to the 21/2.8 elmarit Aspherical for less money and it gives you a stop advantage over the 21/4 Voigtlander (greatest buy ever).
The 25/2.8 Biogon: In the words of peddlers of stocks, this is a BUY recommendation. I tried out this lens at Photokina in 2004, and also in Tokyo in early 2005, and when I finally got it. It was all that I expected it to be. I had the 24/2.8 Aspherica Elmarit for almost 10 years and somehow never got along with it. It was big and bulky and though the performance was superb, it was rarely along for trips or shoots. The 25 Biogon on the other hand is attached to an M2 and is dragged out almost daily - go figure! Very sharp and with a similar rendition in black/white as the 21/2.8 Biogon but less "dramatic."
The 28/2.8 Biogon : Impressive looking lens, 9 elements. It is as good as my 28/2.8 Elmaritor the 28/1.9 CV lens. I have not shot extensively with it as the 25 tends to take precedence. If you don't have a 28 now and insist on a 3/4 stop advantage over the 28/3.5 Skopar, go for it.
The 35/2 Biogon: I am a bit ambivalent over this lens. It is as good as a late 35/2 Summicron, but it is also much bigger and on the ZI it "bulks up" the camera. On an M2 or MP it feels fine, although you keep thinking 50 mm when you hold it. Impressive front element, bulging out like a Cyclops eye! I did run some rolls through with this lens, and a 35/2, Aspherical, and a late fourth generation Summicron, and apart from the harsher tonality of the 35/2 Aspherical, I could not tell the difference. The 35 Biogon and fourth generation Summicron are similar in that the tonality is smooth and pleasing.Good alternative if you have big hands as the Summicron can be a bit difficult to handle with that.
The 50/2 Planar: Supposedly it is an improvement over the latest Summicron but I suspect that it is so miniscule that you are going to have to spend a lot of time with a microscope and loupes to see it. It has a very good close-up performance - up there with the 50/1.4 Aspherical Summilux. Only marginally larger than the 35/2, but as a 50 I can live with it. Again, on the ZI it is big, but on an M2/MP it feels comfortable. It is an alternative to a 50/2 Summicron and the choice will depend on your personal preference.
The 15/2.8 Uncoupled and the 85/2: Are both too expensive and similarly too large & heavy to appeal to me. My 15/4.5 Heliar (or the 12/5.6) seves me well on the occasions that I need ultra-wides. If your livelihood depends on super-wide shots, architecture, sports, etc., it can be worth the $3000+ but I don't need it that badly. The 85/2 is massive. I tried it on an M-body and it feels as unwieldy as the first version of the Leica Summicron in LTM mount (the SOOZY). I have the Apo-Aspherical and I'm doubtful that the 85/2 Sonnar is going to be that much better that I should spend $2500+ for it. It probably has something to do with age, but I'm more interested in high quality but portable lenses and cameras rather than dragging along 30 lbs. of stuff. A couple of bodies and 4 lenses should cover it all.
Other ZI Stuff:
There are auxiliary finders for the 21, 25, & 28. They are expensive, damned expensive at that, but for once they are worth it! If you have subsisted on Leica finders for the past 40+ years, the ZI finders are a revelation. Extremely bright and contrasty, perfectly straight frame(s), and well built.
Somehow they "suck in" the light and the image in the finder appears brighter than reality. The 21 is available as a single focal length finder or as a 21/25 finder and the 25/28 is paired in that finder. solid metal construction and whether you use Zeiss, Leica, or CV lenses, break the piggy bank and get yourself one or two of them. They're that good!
The hoods for the ZI lenses are "extra" and not that cheap at that. Oh well you can't win all the time! They are well made and snap in with a bayonet catch. (Think Hasselblad & Contarex.) Front caps (supplied) are neat spring loaded plastic and they do stay on too.
All the lenses have a small focus "tab". It consists of a small "bump" on the focusing ring and I am less than enamored with it. I like a concave tab as this allows me to rest a finger on the focusing ring and quickly move the ring back and forth. The bump is very discreet and occasionally your finger goes in search of it. Sooner or lateer I'll take a machine to it and carve it into a proper concave profile.
Zeiss 35/2 Biogon, Zeiss 50/1.5 C-Sonnar, Rollei 40/2.8 Sonnar, Voigtlander 28/3.5 Skopar, Voigtlander 75/2.5 Heliar
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